Gold & Silver Daily

Ed's Critical Reads

Mar 06, 2015

2015 February Job Cut Report: 50,579 Cuts, 38% of All Cuts in 2015 Due To Oil Prices | Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Planned job cuts declined slightly in February, as US-based employers announced workforce reductions totaling 50,579, five percent fewer than the 53,041 in January, according to the report on monthly job cuts released Thursday by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The February total was up 21 percent from a year ago, when employers announced 41,835 job cuts during the month. This marks the third consecutive monthly job-cut total that exceeded the comparable year-ago figure.

Employers announced 103,620 planned layoffs through the first two months of 2015, which is up 19 percent from the 86,942 job cuts recorded during the same period in 2014.

Once again, the energy sector saw the heaviest job cutting in February, with these firms announcing 16,339 job cuts, due primarily to oil prices.

This news item was posted on the Internet site yesterday---and I thank Dan Lazicki for today's first story.  The Zero Hedge spin on this is headlined "Initial Jobless Claims Surge to 10 Month Highs, Worst Start to a Year Since 2009"---and it's also courtesy of Dan.

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We Tried to Re-Create JPMorgan’s Mutual Fund Returns and Gave Up

Last month at JPMorgan Chase’s 2015 investor day—where executives discuss results for the previous year in front of analysts and shareholders—the bank displayed impressive numbers for the performance of its mutual funds. Pie charts in the asset management unit’s presentation showed the percentage of money invested in funds that ranked in the top half of their categories: In fixed-income funds with 10-year records, the figure was 85 percent; for stock funds with 10-year records, it was 83 percent.

The presentation included a five-and-a-half-page appendix discussing sources and methods. While the notes on mutual fund and alternative asset performance include statements such as “the analysis excludes Brazil and India domiciled funds”—without saying why—they do not provide full details of how the calculations were done. Even so, that marked a big change from the previous year’s presentation, where similarly impressive numbers were displayed with a 30-word source line citing Lipper, Morningstar, and Nomura—and nothing else. “What the heck were they thinking with the 2013 report?” asks Anita Krug, associate dean at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle.

The two approaches—no explanation a year ago and long notes this year—raise questions about how JPMorgan has come up with a set of numbers describing a key part of its business. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission says companies can’t mislead investors in public presentations. “Disclosures should be written so people without any particular financial background can understand them,” says Mercer Bullard, director of the University of Mississippi School of Law’s Business Law Institute and a former SEC official.

This Bloomberg article appeared on their website at 3:00 a.m. Denver time yesterday morning---and it's also courtesy of Dan Lazicki.

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Buybacks at $46 Billion a Month Dwarf Everything in U.S. Market

The biggest source of fresh cash in American equities isn’t speculators or exchange-traded funds -- it’s companies buying their own stock, by a 6-to-1 margin.

Chief executive officers, who just announced the biggest round of monthly repurchases ever, executed about $550 billion of buybacks last year, according to data compiled by S&P Dow Jones Indices. That compares with a net $85 billion of deposits by customers of mutual and exchange-traded funds, the biggest gap since 2012, data compiled by Bloomberg and Investment Company Institute show.

If you sell a share of stock in the U.S. market, there’s a fair chance the buyer is the company that issued it -- and it’s buyers who’ve been on the right side of the trade since 2009.

Buybacks are helping prop up a bull market that is entering its seventh year just as investors bail out and head back to bonds.

I had a story about this a couple of days ago, but this one is better.  This Bloomberg item, filed from New York, appeared on their Internet site at 9:02 a.m. Denver time on Wednesday morning---and it's something I found in yesterday's edition of the King Report.  David Stockman gets in on the act with a far more comprehensive article on this issue headlined "February Stock Buybacks Hit Record—–Total $2 Trillion Since 2009"---and it's courtesy of South African reader B.V.

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Marc Faber: Bubble Time on Wall Street, Same as It Ever Was

We all know that, from time to time, some sectors of the economy begin to expand rapidly and become an object of speculation (tulips, new territories such as the South Seas, the Mississippi concession, land, canals, railroads, mines, oil, new technologies and inventions, stamps, art, precious metals, etc.).

If monetary conditions are expansionary, it is likely that each boom will last longer and will be magnified, because entrepreneurs and speculators will borrow money in order to capitalise on the new profit opportunity.

There is basically nothing wrong with a boom driven by easy money, because, sooner or later, the supply will catch up with the demand and lead to declining prices (deflation), which will eliminate the weaker and less efficient suppliers (producers) and enlarge the market potential (demand) through lower prices.

This commentary by the good doctor appears on the Internet site yesterday---and it's the first offering of the day from Dan Lazicki.  It's worth reading.

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Missteps, consolidation eroded New York Fed authority over banks

The New York Federal Reserve's once-unparalleled authority to oversee Wall Street has been weakened by a series of supervisory missteps and by a consolidation of power at the U.S. central bank's Washington headquarters.

Current and former New York Fed employees say its ability to independently regulate the country's largest banks began to deteriorate after the financial crisis, and got worse once U.S. Congress passed its landmark Dodd-Frank reform bill, prompting the Washington-based Federal Reserve Board of Governors to take a more active role.

The legislation sparked the creation of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a U.S. Treasury unit of which Fed Chair Janet Yellen is a member, as well as the Large Institution Supervision Coordinating Committee, which oversees the biggest banks and is headed by Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo.

The Washington-based Fed board "felt the need to directly manage the process in a way that hadn't existed before," said a former New York Fed employee who requested anonymity. "Big regulatory issues are basically being handled in Washington, not in New York where all the big banks are, and so institutional expertise is being lost."

This Reuters article appeared on their Internet site at 12:53 p.m. EST yesterday afternoon---and it's courtesy of Washington state reader S.A.  The original headline read "Washington Strips New York Fed's Power".

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Citigroup Lost $800 Million on Holding in Turkey’s Akbank

Citigroup Inc. is ending its investment in Akbank TAS, Turkey’s second-largest bank by market value, at a loss of $800 million on the value of its 2007 purchase.

The U.S.-based lender sold all of its remaining 9.9 percent holding in the Istanbul-based bank for $1.15 billion, it said in a statement on Thursday. The bank negotiated an early exit from a three-year lockup agreement it signed with Akbank’s main owner, Sabanci Holding, when it sold an almost equivalent stake for the same amount in 2012.

The sale will have no material financial impact because the bank recorded a pretax impairment charge of about $1.2 billion on the total investment in 2012, it said in a statement.

This Bloomberg news item, filed from Istanbul, put in an appearance on their Internet site at 4:37 a.m. MST on Thursday morning---and it's the first of two in a row from West Virginia reader Elliot Simon.

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Largest U.S. Banks All Pass Latest Round of Fed 'Stress Tests'

All of the nation's 31 largest banks are adequately fortified to withstand a severe U.S. and global recession and keep lending, the Federal Reserve said Thursday.

Results of the Fed's annual "stress tests" show that as a group, the 31 banks are stronger than at any time since the 2008 financial crisis struck, thanks to a steadily recovering economy. The results build on positive outcomes from last year's stress tests.

Industry analysts say the most critical tests for the industry will come next week. That's when the Fed will announce whether it's approved each bank's request, if one has been made, to raise dividends or repurchase shares. Those results will be based on how each bank would fare in a severe recession if it took such steps.

"This week's tests are a more modest standard than what we will get next week," said Cayetano Carrasco-Gea, senior director at Moody's Analytics. "We will see a few banks fail next week."

You'll excuse me if I have a hard time swallowing this, dear reader.  This AP story, filed from New York, showed up on the Internet site at 6:32 p.m. EST on Thursday evening---and I thank Elliot Simon for his second contribution in a row.

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New York City public schools to have Muslim holidays off

New York City public schools will now observe two Muslim holidays, officials announced Wednesday, making the district -- the nation's biggest -- one of the few to put Islamic holy days on its calendar.

Under the change announced by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and city Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, there will be no class for Eid al-Adha, also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, starting next September 24. Another Muslim holiday, Eid al-Fitr -- a festival marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan -- will become a holiday for those in summer school starting in 2016.

"This is a common-sense change," de Blasio said Wednesday, "and one that recognizes our growing Muslim community and honors its contributions to our city."

The decision affects some 1 million students in New York City. While it's not known exactly how many of them are Muslim, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said that almost 1 million of the more than 8 million people in the city's five boroughs practice Islam and a 2009 Columbia University study found that roughly 10% of New York City public school students are Muslim.

This CNN story showed up on their Internet site at 3:56 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon---and I thank Norman Willis for finding it for us.

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The U.S. is Pumping Even More Oil and Storage Tanks Are Getting Filled to the Brim

The U.S. is pumping oil faster than at any time since 1972, and storage tanks are getting filled to the brim.

U.S. oil production rose for the fourth consecutive week, to a rate of 9.3 million barrels a day, even as oil-drilling rigs are being idled at an unprecedented rate. U.S. inventories also rose, for the eighth consecutive week, jumping 2.4 percent to 444 million barrels, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported today. 

U.S. oil storage is bursting at the seams amid a global glut of supply that has driven prices down by half since last summer. U.S. inventories remain at their highest levels in at least 80 years, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Intelligence.

This short news item was posted on the Bloomberg website at 8:43 a.m. EST on Wednesday morning---and it's another news item I found embedded in yesterday's edition of the King Report.  There was another, but more in-depth story about this posted on the Internet site yesterday.  It's headlined "Cushing and Gulf Coast Storage Filling Up Fast"---and it's courtesy of Dan Lazicki.

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ECB to begin €1 trillion stimulus next week

The European Central Bank will start buying government bonds from next week as it seeks to speed up the eurozone’s stalling economic recovery.

The Frankfurt-based bank on Thursday (5 March) announced it would purchase €60 billion of bonds per month, with the programme set to run until September 2016.

The decision to pump a total of €1.14 trillion into the eurozone economy was made in January.

Prices across the eurozone have now fallen for three consecutive months, raising the likelihood of a prolonged period of deflation.

ECB President Mario Draghi said the programme would remain until the bloc’s inflation rate is close to its 2 percent target rate.

This article appeared n the Internet site at 5:39 p.m. Europe time yesterday---and I thank Roy Stephens for sending it.  There was also a CNBC story on this as well, with three embedded videos of Mario Draghi making the announcement.  It's headlined "ECB ups growth forecasts; will start QE on March 9"---and it was sent to us by U.A.E. reader Laurent-Patrick Gally.

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Mario Draghi Reveals Biggest. Hockey Stick---Ever!

Back in December when Mario Draghi revealed the latest ECB staff inflation forecast, when oil was already plunging, the ECB slashed its 2015 inflation forecast from 1.1% to 0.7%, while reducing the 2016 HICP inflation estimate modestly from 1.4% to 1.3%. Moments ago, during the ECB press conference, Draghi revealed the latest set of staff forecasts. They were, to put it mildly, bullish.

First, here is the GDP forecast:

  • 2015 GDP is now seen at 1.5%, vs 1.0% previously
  • 2016 GDP is now seen at 1.9% vs 1.5% previously
  • 2017 GDP - a new data point - is now seen at 2.1%

Good luck with all that, especially in a world in which China - the Eurozone's most important trading partner - is now openly warning that 2015 will be worse than 2014, and with a Grexit now lurking just around every corner, an outcome which would send Europe right back into a depression, there is zero chance the ECB hits these latest revised forecasts.

Yep, it's a Mario Draghi fairy tale for sure.  This Zero Hedge piece put in an appearance on their Internet site at 8:58 a.m. EST yesterday---and once again I thank Dan Lazicki for sending it our way.  It's definitely worth reading.

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Global Bond Yields and Crude Tumble as EUR/USD Tests 1.10

EUR/USD rallied 100 pips into Draghi's press conference as weak shorts covered but the moment he opened his mouth), it collapsed and is now looking to break to a 1.09 handle for the first time since 2003. Despite hockey-stick-like expectations for E.U. growth, bond yields are compressing (as E.U. arbs the world) and oil prices are waking up to the reality that China took an ax to its growth expectations overnight. But apart from that, stocks are higher...

This tiny Zero Hedge article, along with three excellent charts, showed up on their website at 9:13 a.m. EST on Thursday morning---and I thank Dan Lazicki once again for sending it along.  It's worth the read.  I checked the precious metal charts just now---and the price smashes at 10:40 a.m. EST were unrelated to what happened when Draghi opened his mouth.  But the reaction to Draghi's speech certainly showed up in the U.S. dollar index two hours prior to that.

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ECB launches €1.1 trillion blitz as bond market dries up

The European Central Bank is to launch a €1.1 trillion blitz of bond purchases from Monday to avert deflation and revive lending, finally joining the “QE club” a full six years after the Bank of England and the US Federal Reserve.

The belated move came as the ECB sharply raised its growth forecasts to 1.5pc this year and 1.9pc next year, leaving it unclear whether such massive stimulus is still needed or even advisable.

Year-on-year retail sales jumped 3.7pc in January as the delayed effects of falling energy prices feed through to household spending.

Mario Draghi, the ECB’s president, said the radical measures first unveiled by the central bank nine months ago had restored confidence and were starting to bear fruit, alleviating credit stress across every part of the eurozone.

Whistling past the graveyard, methinks, Mr. Draghi.  This Ambrose Evans-Pritchard offering appeared on the Internet site at 8:32 p.m. yesterday evening GMT---and Roy Stephens sent it to me just after midnight.

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Ukraine's ex-finance minister arrested on fraud, embezzlement charges

Ukraine's former Finance Minister Yuri Kolobov, who is wanted in connection to alleged fraud and theft of millions in public funds, was arrested in Spain on Wednesday.

Ukrainian officials said Kolobov worked in conjunction with President Viktor Yanukovych, former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and Georgy Dzekon, the former head of Ukrtelecom, a telecommunications company, to pilfer millions in public funds. Officials are now working to find the missing money. Yanukovich was forced out of power in 2014.

"We confirm the information that [Mr Kolobov] has been detained," the interior ministry said without giving any details on the circumstances of his arrest.

This UPI story, filed from Madrid, appeared on their website at 6:03 a.m. EST yesterday---and I thank Roy Stephens for bringing it to our attention.

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Putin: East Ukraine situation difficult, at least cities not being destroyed

The situation in eastern Ukraine remains difficult, but at least cities are not being destroyed and civilians are not being killed, Russia's President Vladimir Putin said after meeting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Putin called on both sides of the Ukrainian conflict to“strictly comply” with the Minsk peace deal they signed on February 12.

I am sure that this is an opportunity for a comprehensive peace settlement and direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk," he said.

Describing the situation in southeastern Ukraine as “difficult,” the Russian President stressed that “at least, the fighting has stopped, the people are not being killed and cities are not being destroyed.

This article was posted on the Russia Today Internet site at 2:36 p.m. Moscow time on their Thursday afternoon, which was 6:36 a.m. in Washington.  I thank Roy Stephens for his second contribution in a row.

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Libya declares force majeure on 11 oilfields due to insecurity

Libya has declared force majeure on 11 of its oilfields due to the deteriorating security situation after several oil installations and ports were targeted by attacks, the state-run National Oil Corporation said in a statement on its website on Wednesday.

Libya is caught up in a conflict between two rival governments, and several of its oil ports and oilfields have been hit in battles or taken over by Islamist militants profiting from the chaos as the United Nations tries to broker a peace deal.

The oil assets covered by the force majeure included Mabrouk and Bahi, which security officials said were overrun by Islamist militants earlier this week after security forces guarding the installations were forced to retreat.

Both of those oil operations were empty after staff were evacuated earlier. Mabrouk, which produced around 40,000 barrels per day before it closed, had been assaulted last month by Islamist militants claiming loyalty to Islamic State, an attack that killed at least 12 people.

This short Reuters article appeared on their website at 7:08 p.m. EST on Wednesday evening---and I thank International Man senior editor Nick Giambruno for passing it around yesterday.

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Geopolitics most dangerous since WWII, Lord Rothschild warns investors

The world now faces greater geopolitical risks than since the end of the Second World War as unemployment threatens European welfare and chaos engulfs the Middle East, Lord Rothschild warned investors in the £2.3 billion RIT Capital fund.

World GDP grew at “a disappointing and uneven rate in 2014” following six years of monetary stimulus and extraordinarily low interest rates, the chairman of RIT Capital Partners, Lord Rothschild said in the investment trust’s 2014 annual report.

He also described stock market valuations at near an all-time high with equities benefiting from quantitative easing. The value of paper money has been debased as countries sought to compete and generate growth by lowering the value of their currencies, according to Rothschild. The euro and the yen depreciated by over 12 percent against the U.S. dollar during the course of the year and sterling by 5.9 percent. The unintended consequences of monetary experiments on such a scale are impossible to predict, the banker says.

This story was posted on the Russia Today website at 2:01 p.m. yesterday afternoon Moscow time---and I thank South African reader B.V. for sending it our way.

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Koos Jansen: Chinese Gold Financing Deals Explained

One of the main causes many gold analysts assume Chinese gold demand (and withdrawals from the vaults of the Shanghai Gold Exchange) is inflated is because of Chinese Commodity Financing Deals (CCFD). However, this analysis is incorrect.

When I had discussion the other day with a colleague about how round tripping gold flows in China were completely separated from the Chinese domestic gold market and the SGE, I send him a link to a post I had written on round tripping that explains everything. When I clicked the link myself and read my post (from May 2014) I was of the opinion my writing skills have improved since I wrote it. Time to write a thorough new post on round tripping and other Chinese gold financing deals! Most likely I will rewrite more posts on the mechanics of the Chinese gold market.

Round Tripping

Most CCFD are ways for Chinese speculators to acquire cheap funds using commodities as collateral. When it comes to using gold as collateral for CCFD there are two options, round tripping and gold leasing. What is round tripping? Goldman Sachs wrote a report in which the process was properly explained. For this post we will not examine other commodities than gold.

Well, dear reader, this is way above my pay grade---and I won't even pretend that I understand what's in this commentary.  I also have no idea if what is said in this commentary is correct or not, so you're on your own with this one.  It was posted on the Singapore Internet site I thank Koos for sending it to me yesterday.

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Does Rob McEwen really not wonder why gold isn't at $5,000 already?

If there's a tougher and shrewder entrepreneur and executive in the gold mining business than Rob McEwen, founder of Goldcorp and now CEO of McEwen Mining, GATA doesn't know of one. But McEwen's remarks this week at the PDAC conference in Toronto, at least as conveyed by the National Post, suggest that he's not tough and shrewd enough -- that in the crucial respect he's just like the rest of management in the gold-mining industry, unable to put 2 and 2 together even as the equation is flashing in neon lights right in front of him.

According to the National Post, whose report is appended in part below, McEwen is maintaining a prediction of a gold price of US$5,000 despite the monetary metal's poor performance in recent years.

Of course timing is everything and nothing else matters much, since over infinite time gold both may rise to many multiples of its current price, as well as fall to zero. But according to the National Post, McEwen told the conference that gold's time is or should be now, that gold is at a "turning point" because certain prices are going wild, like a condominium in New York that recently sold for $95 million and a painting that sold for almost $330 million.

"It sends a message," McEwen is quoted as saying, "that money is not that valuable anymore."

Indeed.  So if New York condos and mere paintings can rise in price to tens of millions of dollars, why hasn't gold followed along?

It's a great question---and I already know for a fact that Rob knows the answer.  More than 10 years ago, when I was just getting started with GATA, I spoke to Rob on the phone at length when he was CEO over at Goldcorp.  I explained the whole gold price management scheme to him---and he sent GATA a cheque for a $1,000.  This must read GATA release was posted on the Internet site yesterday.

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Lawrence Williams: Gold recycling volumes very price-dependent – WGC

A new report from the World Gold Council (WGC) in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) takes a detailed look at gold recycling data over the past 20 years. Overall, the report finds, recycling has accounted for about one-third of the gold market supply, but that within this recycling volumes on a year to year basis have fluctuated considerably with a strong gold price correlation being largely responsible for the variations. A 30-year analysis of recycling data from 1982 to 2012 revealed that price fluctuations accounted for around 75% of the changes in recycling volumes and that economic shocks can boost recycling by up to 20%.

The report also notes a strong pattern of a shift in recycling volumes from West to East, which very much coincides with other factors seen in global gold demand.

Basically there are two types of gold recycling, the report notes. These are ‘High value recycled gold’, which accounts for roughly 90% of the total supply of recycled gold. This comprises recycled jewellery, gold bars and coins. The balance is ‘Industrial recycled gold’ which makes up the remaining almost 10% and consists primarily of gold found in waste electrical and electronic equipment. It notes that the growing volume in waste electrical and electronic equipment offers opportunities for industrial materials recycling, although obtaining gold from this material will become ever harder as smaller amounts of gold are used in them.

This commentary by Lawrie appeared on the Internet site at 3:17 p.m. GMT yesterday---and it's definitely worth readingIt should be noted that the version appears to have been edited---and the the commentary as Lawrie originally wrote it, appears on his website under the headlined "Gold recycling examined"---and the link to that is here.  I thank Dan Lazicki for pointing them out.

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The Only Precious Metal You Should Own Right Now

You have a great shot at a brand new precious metals trade today.

It’s not gold. It’s not silver, either. And you can bet your sweet patootie it’s not copper. No, there’s only one metal worth buying right now…

I’m talking about palladium.

Palladium is the Rodney Dangerfield of precious metals – it just doesn’t get any respect, I tell ya. Some even call it the “forgotten precious metal” since gold and silver always steal the spotlight.

Palladium has certainly been trading in a world of its own lately, but not to be forgotten is the fact that the Commercial net short position in that metal by the Big 8 traders in the COMEX futures market is 108 days of world production---and they, and they alone, will determine the price, regardless of supply and demand---a point I made in a column earlier this week.  This commentary appeared on the Internet site on Thursday sometime---and it's the final offering of the day from Dan Lazicki, for which I thank him on you behalf.

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Platinum prices poised for a rebound

Shrinking platinum stockpiles, growing demand from carmakers and new uses being trotted out in the energy field are stoking producers’ expectations that prices are poised to rebound from a five-year low.

Production of the shiny metal, used for jewelry and in catalytic converters in cars, will fall short of consumption this year by about 500,000 ounces, according to a January estimate by Credit Suisse Group AG. Given that, industry leaders are debating how long it will take for buyers to use up reserves and start paying more for a less available product.

Platinum is “in its strongest position” in a decade, said Chris Griffith, chief executive officer of Anglo American Platinum Ltd., the industry’s largest producer. “The fundamentals are that demand is increasing.”

What I said about palladium goes for platinum as well.  The same Big 8 COMEX traders are short 99 days of world platinum production---and none of these traders, which are mostly composed of big banks and investment houses, either produce or consume the stuff.  Like silver and gold, these banks are the 800-pound gorillas in the precious metal market---and until they decide otherwise, prices are going nowhere but down in the short term.  Supply and demand doesn't matter.  I found this story on the Internet site just before I hit the 'send' button on today's column.

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Ted Butler: More Evidence of JP Morgan’s Manipulation Scheme In COMEX Silver

Ted Butler has written extensively about silver manipulation. He was the first analyst in this area to explain in great detail the mechanics of silver manipulation, but also to provide hard evidence on numerous occasions. In his latest update to his premium subscribers, he explains how JP Morgan is applying manipulative tricks in the March 2015 futures contract on COMEX silver.

This brief commentary by Ted is a compilation of all his quotes that I've posted in my column over the last three day, but here they are all in one spot.  And even if you're read it all before, it's certainly worth your while one more time.  It was posted on the Internet site yesterday---and I thank the proprietor, Taki Tsaklanos, for bringing it to my attention---and now to yours.

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The Most Likely Stocks to Give You Vertical Profits

"This is a historical opportunity," says Pierre Lassonde, co-founder and chairman of gold royalty company Franco-Nevada. Right now, gold stocks are so beaten down and undervalued that they have nowhere to go but up. And once the gold market rallies again, the best of the best mining companies—those with proven management teams and high-grade ounces in the ground—will simply go vertical.

Find out how to prepare your portfolio to get a shot at the jackpot. In GOING VERTICAL, Casey Research's timely on-line event, on Tuesday, March 10, at 2 p.m. EST, eight of the world's top industry experts tell you everything you need to know—including some of their favorite stocks to own now.  Register here to watch—it's free.

[When, not if, JPMorgan et al are instructed to step aside and let precious metal prices run to the upside, VERTICAL PROFITS is what they will be, dear reader.  That day draws ever closer. -  Ed]

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Mar 05, 2015

Sluggish February U.S. car sales blamed on blustery weather

For the second year in a row, ferocious winter weather slowed U.S. vehicle sales in February, causing the major automakers to miss analysts' bullish projections.

Six of the top seven manufacturers on Tuesday reported year-to-year sales increases in February, but all fell short of expectations.

"Mother Nature was just not nice to us," said Fred Diaz, U.S. chief for the Nissan brand. He expects the industry to recoup lost sales as the weather improves.

Total U.S. sales in February rose 5.3 percent to 1,257,619 vehicles, according to research firm Autodata. Analysts surveyed by Reuters had expected an increase of 7.1 percent.

It's always the weather, isn't it?  This Reuters article, filed from Detroit, appeared on their Internet site at 6:38 p.m. EST on Tuesday---and I found it in yesterday's edition of the King Report.

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Using Private E-mail, Hillary Clinton Thwarted Record Requests

In 2012, congressional investigators asked the State Department for a wide range of documents related to the attack on the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. The department eventually responded, furnishing House committees with thousands of documents.

But it turns out that that was not everything.

The State Department had not searched the e-mail account of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton because she had maintained a private account, which shielded it from such searches, department officials acknowledged on Tuesday.

It was only last month that the House committee appointed to investigate Benghazi was provided with about 300 of Mrs. Clinton’s e-mails related to the attacks. That was shortly after Mrs. Clinton turned over, at the State Department’s request, some 50,000 pages of government-related emails that she had kept on her private account.

If this women doesn't scare the bejesus out of you, you obviously haven't been paying attention all these years.  This news item, filed from Washington, showed up on The New York Times website on Tuesday---and I thank Roy Stephens for sending it.

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Fed's Yellen Questions Whether Wall Street Ethics Up to Par

The head of the U.S. Federal Reserve took a swipe on Tuesday at unlawful and unethical behavior at banks, saying it raises questions over whether the values embedded on Wall Street have improved enough in recent years.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen cited the many improvements since the 2007-2009 crisis at both financial institutions and the U.S. central bank that monitors them. But large banks must continue to fix their internal governance and risk controls, she said, or the Fed will take "swift and meaningful" action.

"It is unfortunate that I need to underscore this, but we expect the firms we oversee to follow the law and to operate in an ethical manner," she said in prepared remarks to the Citizens Budget Commission, which hosted a New York dinner for her.

"Too often in recent years, bankers at large institutions have not done so, sometimes brazenly," Yellen added.

This story from Tuesday is living, breathing proof that Yellen can lie her ass off with the best of them.  It appeared on their website at 8:43 p.m. EST on Tuesday evening---and it's the first of three offerings from West Virginia reader Elliot Simon.

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Jim Rickards: Why oil will be range bound for the time being

Jim Rickards, chief global strategist at West Shore Funds, expects oil prices to trade between $50-60 for a year or two as Saudi Arabia attempts to put the U.S. shale frackers out of business.

This very interesting 3:26 minute video interview was conducted by Bernie Lo out of the CNBC studios in Hong Kong on their Wednesday morning---which was Tuesday evening in New York.  It is, of course, courtesy of Harold Jacobsen.

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Canada’s Central Bank Requests End to Defacing of Debasing Canadian Dollar

The death of Leonard Nimoy inspired a wonderful outpouring of affection across the world, and possibly beyond.

Nimoy was best known for playing the role of Spock in Star Trek, possibly the most beloved character in the sci-fi genre for several generations.

From our point of view, with our interest in the nature and history of money, the most interesting of these expressions is the resurgence of the phenomenon of “Spocking” in Canada.

Spocking” is the act of defacing the Canadian $5 note by superimposing the likeness of the half-Vulcan doctor onto the image of former prime minister, Sir Wilfred Laurier. There is quite a resemblance and therefore not much art is required to transform the former prime minister into the beloved Spock.

This short, but very interesting commentary is courtesy of Mark O'Byrne over at the Internet site yesterday---and it's worth reading.  "May the force be with you."

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U.K. frauds office launches investigation into Bank of England auctions amid rigging fears

The Serious Fraud Office has launched an investigation into the Bank of England's money-market auctions amid fears they may have been hit by the rigging scandal that has engulfed the City.

The SFO revealed on Wednesday night that it is "investigating material referred to it by the Bank of England concerning liquidity auctions during the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008."

It is unclear whether the probe, the first targeting the Bank in the SFO's 28-year history, will focus on traders outside the BoE or officials inside the central bank.

The move came after the SFO was handed the results of an inquiry conducted last year by Lord Grabiner into whether any senior staff at the Bank were aware its auctions may have been rigged in 2007 and 2008.

This story was posted on The Telegraph's website at 9:05 p.m. GMT Wednesday evening in London---and I found it embedded in a GATA release. This is obviously a follow-on article to another story that appeared on The Telegraph's website, this one at 5:51 p.m. GMT on their Tuesday evening.  It's headlined "Bank of England hands FCA dozens of instances of potential market abuse"---and it's another news item I found in yesterday's edition of the King Report.

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ECB Will Cut Rates to Minus 3%: J.P. Morgan

A running theme here over the past several weeks has been that the ECB’s €1.1 trillion foray into quantitative easing will be severely hindered by a laundry list of constraints (some of which were unwittingly self-imposed). Another topic we’ve covered exhaustively is the idea that the world’s central banks will likely all, in relatively short order, run up against the natural limits of accommodative monetary policy (indeed, even some Japanese policy makers are starting to agree on this). 

Thinking about these two things in conjunction raises an interesting question for the ECB: if a tail event comes rearing its ugly head and the global central bank race to the bottom accelerates, will Mario Draghi, effectively fighting with one hand tied behind his back by virtue of Q€’s limitations, be able to fend off an outright collapse?

Here’s Financial Times with more: ...the ECB is now close to running out of ammunition. The true constraints on further ECB intervention lie in the 25 per cent issue limit and 33 per cent issuer limit on its sovereign bond purchases.

Except for Greek debt, the 25 per cent and 33 per cent caps should not prove binding in a scenario where the ECB keeps its monthly asset purchase pace of €60bn. However, the limits could be reached in worst-case scenarios where the ECB would have to boost the size of its QE programme or implement OMTs [Outright Monetary Transactions] targeted on specific sovereigns.

I sent this story off to Jim Rickards as soon as I received it---and this is what he had to say. "Thanks Ed. It's a good summary of Europe's problems. The interesting question is how can Europe have such deflation without exporting it to the U.S. via currency wars? And, if the deflation is exported to the U.S, how on earth can the Fed raise rates without making that situation worse? They probably can't, and may even have to fight back with QE4 in 2016. That could be bearish for gold in the short run (as deflation prevails), but bullish by late this year (as more Fed ease appears on the horizon).  Fasten your seatbelt!"

This Zero Hedge article appeared on their Internet site at 8:30 p.m. EST yesterday evening---and it's a heavy read, but worth the effort.  I thank U.A.E. reader Laurent-Patrick Gally for bringing it to our attention.

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Poland Cuts Rates More Than Expected, 21st Central Bank "Policy Ease" of the Year

Just hours after India's 'surprise' rate cut (which saw the SENSEX surge and then dump to close red), Poland has surprised the market with a bigger-than-expected rate cut. Despite two-thirds of economists expecting a mere 25bps cut, the Polish Central Bank slashed its bench market 7-day rate to just 1.5% - the lowest on record. Today's cut "makes up for inaction in previous months" after Poland held rate flat in January and February (but echoes Poland's Oct 'surprise' greater-than-expected ease of 50bps. Polish stocks dropped on the news (but recovered), banks are weaker, and the Zloty is selling off on this news (pushing back towards record lows)...

Poland’s economy expanded 3.1 percent from a year earlier in the fourth quarter. While that’s the slowest pace in 2014, it also capped the fastest full-year expansion in three years as deflation helped increase disposable incomes and consumer confidence.

After predicting inflation of 1.2 percent in 2015, it now believes consumer prices “will probably fall on average this year,” the ministry’s Chief Economist Ludwik Kotecki said on Feb. 25.

This article showed up on the Zero Hedge website at 8:35 a.m. EST on Wednesday morning---and I thank Elliot Simon for finding it for us.

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Switzerland’s Struggle Against Fiscal Imperialism

Switzerland has long been the world’s top offshore financial center. And for good reason. Its sophistication and professionalism are legendary. Plus, it has a distinct history, tradition, and culture that sincerely values privacy, neutrality, and independence.

Switzerland’s culture is its rare, secret sauce. That’s something that cannot be easily replicated by other jurisdictions. In my view, it’s what really sets Switzerland apart.

Recently I spoke with Roland Meier, who has been a Swiss banker for decades. Roland and I touch on some important topics, including the U.S.’s assault on the Swiss banking system, GATCA, and attempts to create a centralized one-world government.

This very excellent and educational interview with Roland was conducted by International Man's senior editor Nick Giambruno---and it's definitely worth reading if you have the interest.

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Rajan Cuts India Rates After Modi Agrees to Inflation Target

Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan cut interest rates in an unscheduled move days after the government agreed for the first time to give the central bank a legal mandate to target inflation.

Rajan, citing weakness in Asia’s third-largest economy, lowered the benchmark repurchase rate by a quarter percentage point to 7.5 percent, the second such move this year. Economists at banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. had anticipated the RBI to hold off until the next meeting, on April 7.

India’s move is the latest salvo in an onslaught of global easing outside the U.S., with more than a dozen central banks adding stimulus so far this year. The central bank alluded to the need to keep up with counterparts in the easing cycle, saying the rupee remained strong relative to peers.

The decision also followed quickly on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agreement to a yearlong quest by Rajan to boost the central bank’s independence and focus on price stability in the nation with one of Asia’s fastest inflation rates. The agreement calls for an inflation target of four percent, with a band of plus or minus two percentage points.

This Bloomberg article, co-filed from Mumbai and New Delhi, appeared on their Internet site at 8:17 p.m. Denver time on Tuesday evening---and it's the second offering of the day from Elliot Simon.

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Australian Reserve Bank reveals probe into dollar spike ahead of rate announcement

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is investigating suspicious trading in foreign exchange markets after the Australian dollar spiked sharply in the seconds before the Reserve Bank of Australia announced its surprise decision to hold interest rates in March.

It is the second month in a row that irregular trading has occurred in the moments before the release of the RBA's monetary policy statement.

The Australian dollar, as valued against the United States dollar, jumped 0.5 percent exactly 37 seconds before the March interest rate decision was released at 2:30 p.m. AEDT on Tuesday, sparking speculation of insider trading.

This article put in an appearance on The Sydney Morning Herald website on their Wednesday sometime---and I found it on the Internet site.

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Liquidity evaporates in China as 'fiscal cliff' nears

Nobody can fault China's leaders for lack of bravery. The Politburo has kept its nerve as the world's most giddy experiment in credit-driven growth faces assault on three major fronts at once.

Real interest rates have rocketed. The trade-weighted rise in the yuan over the past two years has been spectacular. Fiscal policy is about to tighten drastically as the authorities clamp down on big-spending local governments.

Put together, China is pursuing the most contractionary mix of economic policies in the G20, relative to the status quo ante. Collateral damage is already visible in the sliding global prices of iron ore, copper, nickel, lead and zinc over recent months, as well as thermal coal, oil, corn and even sugar.

Zhiwei Zhang, from Deutsche Bank, says China faces a "fiscal cliff" this year as Beijing attempts to rein in spending. "This year, China will likely face the worst fiscal challenge since 1981. This is not well recognised in the market," he said.

This commentary by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, which is certainly worth reading, made an appearance on the Internet site at 10:13 p.m. GMT yesterday evening London time---and it's the final contribution of the day from Roy Stephens, for which I thank him.

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Sprott's Thoughts: Monetary System, World Order We’ve Had Since 1940’s is Collapsing -- Richard Maybury

Richard Maybury has been predicting ‘black swan’ events in his newsletter Early Warning Report for the last two decades.

In a recent conversation, he put his finger on something happening around the world. He sees a growing anxiety about global events – “everybody knows there’s something seriously wrong but they don’t know what is really happening,” he said.

A reckoning with policies that have been in place since the 1940’s is taking place, according to Richard. The fallout, he says, has implications for currencies, the military hegemony of the U.S., and political stability around the world.

This commentary by Richard appeared on the Internet site yesterday---and it's worth a few minutes of your time.

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BNN's Market Call Interviews Rick Rule at the PDAC in Toronto

This hour long video interview/Q&A session with Rick appeared on the Internet site at 1:00 p.m. EST on Monday---and I thank Ken Hurt for sharing it with us.

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GoldSeek Radio Interviews Dr. Marc Faber

Dr. Faber believes the People's Bank of China may have accumulated thousands of tons of gold bullion reserves, many fold the official figure, in anticipation of a gold backed Yuan/renminbi. China boasts the most trading partners of any nation---124; making a sound and readily acceptable currency an essential ingredient for global expansion. The modus operandi includes a gradual weakening of the Yuan, to the benefit of the manufacturing and exporting sectors, followed by the introduction of gold backing. En passant, the Yuan devaluation will be offset by the increased value of the massive PBoC gold stockpile.

This 29-minute audio interview showed up on the Internet site yesterday---and it's the second offering in a row from reader Ken Hurt.

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Russian palladium exports to Switzerland jump

Russian exports of palladium to Switzerland in January jumped to their largest since May 2014, making for the strongest start to any year since 2010, according to Swiss trade data.

Russia exported 21,600 ounces of palladium to Switzerland in January, more than three times the average monthly run rate of the past year of 6,000 ounces, Barclays said in a note on Monday.

“Notably, it is a pickup in powder as opposed to semi-manufactured imports which has accounted for the bulk of shipments in recent months,” the bank said. “The increase in shipments in April and May last year were also in powder form. A pickup in the winter months is not uncommon but in absolute terms the volumes are still light.”

This therefore does not alter Barclays’ forecast of a sizeable deficit in 2015 of 558,000 ounces, it added.

This short, but very interesting article, was posted on the Internet site at 11:31 a.m. GMT on Tuesday morning---and I found it all by myself.

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Turkish gold imports continue to fall in February

Turkey imported just 2.1 tonnes of gold in February, according to data from the Turkish bourse, down from 2.26 tonnes in January and the lowest inflow in seven months although it was up slightly from just 1.2 tonnes in the same month in 2014.

At an average of 181 tonnes per year over the past 10 years, Turkey is the world’s fourth-largest consumer of gold, the World Gold Council said.

The physical premium for 0.995 LBMA gold for immediate delivery nonetheless remains at parity, according to Troy Precious Metals GoldTakas system.

Early in February, Metals Focus said that the key driver of the drop in January’s figure was a surge in jewellery scrap supply in Turkey. Domestic refiners were working at full capacity, causing local premiums to move to a discount over the price on international markets, it also said.

This short gold-related story put in an appearance on the Internet site at 2:54 p.m. GMT on Wednesday---and I came across it the same time as the previous story.  It's worth your while.

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Gold has worked for Indians, billionaire investor Thomas Kaplan says

Telling Indians not to buy gold is like asking Americans not to consume liquor, billionaire investor Thomas Kaplan has said.

Appreciating Indians' appetite for gold, Kaplan said the precious metal has historically been a very good way to store wealth for India and pointed out that China is "specifically and overtly" encouraging its people to buy gold.

India is one of the largest consumers of gold in the world and imports as much as 800-1,000 tonnes of gold each year.

"I think trying to ban gold or to ban gold imports, you know, would have about as much success as trying to tell Americans not to drink alcohol. And prohibition did not work and eventually someone had to accept the reality," he told PTI on the sidelines of a CII event when asked whether India's efforts to curb gold imports would work.

This commentary, filed from New Delhi, showed up on The Economic Times of India website at 12:22 p.m. IST yesterday afternoon---and it's another story I found embedded in a GATA release.  It's definitely worth reading.

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Mar 04, 2015

Why the ‘Smart Money’ Is Bailing Out of the Bull Market

Investors are feeling good right now. Really good. By some measures, bullishness has reached levels not seen in more than 10 years. But the positive vibes are at odds with some hard data that suggests we're on the threshold of a "come back to reality" moment.

What data? How about the fact that forward earnings are rolling over at a pace that's only been seen during recessions? Or that factory activity in the Chicago area slumped to a low not seen since July 2009? Or that overall U.S. economic data is disappointing in a way that it hasn't quite since 2012? Or the wipe out in commodity prices over the last few months, the kind typically seen during recessions? Or that consumer prices, on the headline measure, declined outright for the first time since Lehman Brothers imploded?

Moreover, the problem is global. So far this year, 20 central banks around the world have cut interest rates. And most other countries — except Singapore, Ireland and Japan — are also seeing earnings downgrades.

This article originally appeared on The Fiscal Times website, but it was picked up by the Internet site on Monday at 6 a.m. EST---and I thank West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for today's first story.

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American Companies Are in Love With Themselves

Corporate America’s love affair with itself grows more passionate by the month.

Stock buybacks, which along with dividends eat up sums of money equal to almost all the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index’s earnings, vaulted to a record in February, with chief executive officers announcing $104.3 billion in planned repurchases. That’s the most since TrimTabs Investment Research began tracking the data in 1995 and almost twice the $55 billion bought a year earlier.

Even with 10-year Treasury yields holding below 2.1 percent, economic growth trailing forecasts and earnings estimates deteriorating, the stock market snapped back last month as companies announced an average of more than $5 billion in buybacks each day. That’s enough to cover about 2 percent of the value of shares traded on U.S. exchanges, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

This short article, filed from New York, appeared on their website at 10 p.m. Denver time on Monday evening---and it's the second contribution in a row from Elliot Simon.  It's worth reading.

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Yellen Turning from Friend to Foe for Dollar Bulls

Janet Yellen is turning from currency traders’ best friend to their biggest foe.

The most popular trade in the $5.3 trillion-a-day foreign-exchange market has been betting on a stronger dollar, leaving investors exposed when the Federal Reserve chair damped speculation last month of an imminent increase to interest rates. As the dollar slowed its advance, an index of currency returns snapped a record winning streak, prompting traders to reassess how much higher the greenback can go.

“Currency managers had been doing well because they’ve been long dollars, and the dollar had been pretty much on a straight-line trajectory higher,” said Adam Cole, the global head of currency strategy at RBC Capital Markets in London. The dollar’s slowdown is “a major factor behind returns looking less positive,” he said.

While Bloomberg’s Dollar Spot Index climbed to a record on Tuesday, the measure is rising at the slowest pace since June and speculators including hedge funds are paring bets on how much the currency will strengthen. Yellen told Congress last week she won’t be locked into a timetable for boosting borrowing costs, just days after minutes of the Fed’s January meeting underlined the damage a stronger dollar can do to the economy.

This is the second Bloomberg article in a row from Elliot Simon---and it was filed from Edinburgh at 5:00 p.m. MST on Monday evening.

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Bill Gross Says Currency War Risks Slowing Global Growth

Bill Gross said a global race to devalue currencies in an “undeclared” war risks slowing growth instead of stimulating it.

Central bank policies have pushed interest rates below zero in Europe, and countries including China and Japan appear to be devaluing their currencies, he wrote in an investment outlook for Janus Capital Group Inc., where he runs the $1.5 billion Global Unconstrained Bond Fund. While such moves make debt burdens more tolerable and exports cheaper, they are bound to hurt the global economy as a whole, he wrote.

“Common sense would argue the global economy cannot devalue against itself,” Gross wrote. “Either the strong dollar weakens the world’s current growth locomotive (the U.S.) or else their near in unison devaluation effort fails to lead to the desired results.”

More importantly, Gross wrote, low to negative interest rates hamper the functioning of capital markets and prompt investors to take on higher risk to boost returns, making the financial system more vulnerable. That’s one reason why the U.S. Federal Reserve appears on course to start raising interest rates as early as June, he wrote.

This is another Bloomberg story.  This one was filed from New York at 5:52 a.m. MST on Monday morning---and this one is courtesy of Brad Robertson.

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Jim Rickards: A central banker's worst nightmare

Inflation and deflation are two sides of the same coin. Inflation is marked by generally rising prices. Deflation is marked by generally falling prices. Both are deviations from price stability, and both distort the decisions of consumers and investors. In inflation, consumers may accelerate purchases before the price goes up. In deflation, consumers may delay purchases in the expectation that prices are going down and things will be cheaper if they wait.

Both inflation and deflation are challenging to investors who have to guess future returns based on changes in price indexes in addition to navigating the normal business risks of any investment. Inflation favors the debtor because the real value of his debts goes down as money becomes worth less. Deflation favors the creditor because the real value of amounts owed to him goes up as money becomes worth more. In short, both inflation and deflation make economic decisions more difficult by adding a wild card to the deck.

To investors, inflation and deflation are bad in equal, if opposite, measure. But, from a central banker’s perspective, inflation and deflation are not equally bad. Inflation is something that central bankers consider to be a manageable problem and something that is occasionally desirable. Deflation is something central bankers consider unmanageable and potentially devastating. Understanding why central banks fear deflation more than inflation is the key to understanding future central bank monetary policy.

Jim's comments appeared on the Internet site yesterday---and I thank Harold Jacobsen for pointing it out.

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Could Oil Prices Plummet a Second Time?

Even with well completions being suspended, supplies continue to build. The latest EIA data shows that oil stocks in the United States climbed to 434 million barrels, the highest levels in storage in over 80 years. “My gut feeling is that the oil price could see a double bottom,” Jason Kenney, an analyst with Banco Santaander SA said in a Bloomberg interview. “We’ve got too much inventory.” Bloomberg noted that Kenney has a good track record of predicting price swings in the past. Even though rig counts have declined significantly, output has so far proved resilient.

Finally, there is some evidence that the ability to move excess oil into storage may run into trouble if production does not decline. Storage tanks are starting to fill, raising the possibility that a glut could worsen. There is a great deal of uncertainty around how quickly this might happen. The EIA sought to clarify, noting that the markets have confused some of its storage figures – some oil supplies in the EIA’s weekly inventory data is actually sitting in pipelines and at well sites, meaning there is more storage capacity available than many news outlets had originally thought. An EIA analyst recently told Bloomberg that overall storage capacity is only at about 60 percent, and “[w]e still have a way to go before we can consider ourselves to be full,” Rob Merriam, EIA’s head of petroleum statistics said. It would take a few months of strong inventory builds to fill up the remaining storage, perhaps an unlikely scenario, especially if production starts to take a hit. But if storage tanks did start to fill up, prices would dive once again and companies would have to shut in wells and cut back on production.

This short essay, courtesy of the Internet site, found a home over at the Zero Hedge Internet site at 1:20 p.m. EST yesterday afternoon---and it's the first offering of the day from Dan Lazicki.  If you follow the oil market closely, then this is definitely worth reading.

View full GSD edition - How a Romanian Hacker Exposed Hillary Clinton's Secret E-mail Life

While the Hillary Clinton email fiasco is sure to be the talk of the town for the next few days, weeks, and months and may have seriously jeopardized the former Secretary of State's chances at becoming America's next president, an even more important story is how the revelation that Hillary exclusively used a private, unencrypted and unsupervised email for 4 years of state-level, official business communications, emerged in the first place.

The answer, shockingly, comes courtesy of a Romanian hacker who was known by the handle "Guccifer", and who is currently serving time in a Bucharest prison for his online attacks against countless public figures including the infamous leaks of George W. Bush personal paintings.

How is it possible that a Romanian convict may have helped accelerate the downfall of Warren Buffett's presidential hopeful? According to the Smoking Gun, which first reported on this topic back in March 2013, “Guccifer” illegally accessed the AOL e-mail account of Sidney Blumenthal, who then worked as a senior White House adviser to President Bill Clinton, and later became a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Hillary for president?  That's a very scary thought.  This very interesting Zero Hedge piece put in an appearance on their website at 6:08 p.m. EST on Tuesday evening---and I thank Dan Lazicki for sending it along.

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Poll gives France's far-right National Front party boost ahead of regional vote

More than a third of French voters believe the country’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen “embodies French republican values”, according to a shock poll for left-leaning newspaper Libération published just weeks before key regional elections.

The survey published on Monday nevertheless showed that a significant majority (57 percent) believe Le Pen would make a “bad” or “very bad” president.

But the high level of approval – being recognised for having “Republican values” is a prized political asset – suggests that the National Front’s (FN) strategy of rehabilitating the party’s negative image through relentless domination of the media appears to be enjoying some success.

The FN is riding high. Polls give the far-right anti-immigration and anti-Europe party up to 33 percent national support as France gears up for this month’s regional vote – well ahead of the ruling Socialists, the conservative opposition UMP and other parties which have been consistently trailing behind.

This story was posted on their website on Monday sometime---and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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NSA spying inquiry: U.K.-German intelligence-sharing dispute deepens

Germany’s efforts to investigate National Security Agency (NSA) spying are being hampered by Britain’s refusal to co-operate amid threats to break off intelligence-sharing agreements, a German newspaper has reported.

The claims note a heightening of tensions between Downing Street and the German Chancellery over intelligence-sharing.

According to German newspaper reports, the Bundestag’s investigation into the NSA could be halted if any UK secrets are revealed.

This Russia Today article showed up on their Internet site at 4:47 p.m. Moscow time on their Tuesday afternoon, which was 8:47 a.m. in Washington.

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Greece taps public sector cash to help cover March needs: sources

Greece is tapping into the cash reserves of pension funds and public sector entities through repo transactions as it scrambles to cover its funding needs this month, debt officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

Shut out of debt markets and with aid from lenders frozen, Athens is in danger of running out of cash in the coming weeks as it faces a 1.5 billion euro loan repayment to the International Monetary Fund this month.

The government has sought to calm fears and says it will be able to make the IMF payment and others, but not said how.

At least part of the state's cash needs for the month will be met by repo transactions in which pension funds and other state entities sitting on cash lend the money to the country's debt agency through a short-term repurchase agreement for up to 15 days, debt agency officials told Reuters.

This Reuters article, filed from Athens, put in an appearance on their website at 11:25 a.m. EST yesterday morning---and my thanks go out to Roy Stephens for sending it our way.

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Ukraine agrees tough austerity package to gain $17.5bn IMF bailout

The Ukrainian parliament has approved amendments the 2015 budget that sees drastic pension cuts and energy bills tripling. The changes are needed to comply with the terms of the agreed $17.5 billion IMF bailout package.

The budget amendments were passed at an extraordinary meeting on Monday with a majority of 273 votes, well above the minimum 226 votes necessary to pass legislation.

According to the changes, Ukraine’s budget deficit increases from 3.7 percent to 4.1 percent of GDP. Amendments envisage the expenses increasing by about $1.3 billion (35 billion hryvnia), with a 21.7 hryvnia per dollar exchange rate. At the same the cabinet plans to cut government funding of Naftogaz in 2015 by 5.8 percent to 29.7 billion hryvnia.

The changes also see a cut in pensions for retired people by 15 percent. Moreover, pension payments for people working in the tax, customs and regulatory bodies, will be suspended. The job tenure for people working in hazardous and heavy industries will be gradually increased from 20 years to 25 years for men and from 15 years to 20 years for women.

This Russia Today news item appeared on their website at 2:37 p.m. EST Moscow time on their Tuesday afternoon---and once again it's courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Ukrainian Economic Reforms are Humiliation for Populace — Putin

The Ukrainian government's economic reforms, including the six-fold hike of natural gas prices for consumers, looks like the right thing to do, but amounts to a humiliation of Ukraine's citizens, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday.

"We talked about it, formally everything is correct, but in essence, it's humiliation," Putin said following a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus.

On Tuesday, Ukraine's energy regulator announced a six-fold increase in natural gas prices for the country's population starting on April 1, as part of a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce energy subsidies. Between October 1 and April the price of natural gas used for heating homes will only be increased three-fold.

This news item was posted on the Internet site at 9:59 p.m. Moscow time on their Tuesday evening, which was 1:59 p.m. in Washington.

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Ukraine’s fourth largest lender Delta Bank insolvent – central bank

The fourth biggest bank in Ukraine, Delta Bank, has gone bankrupt after months of non-compliance, according to the National Bank of Ukraine. Two smaller banks in the Delta Banking group have also gone belly-up.

“The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) adopted a resolution on the assignment of JSC Delta Bank to the category insolvent on March 2,” says the NBU website on Tuesday. The failure of Delta Bank owner's to take timely, efficient and sufficient measures to restore the bank's financial health and viability and bring its operations into compliance with Ukrainian laws was given as the main reason for the NBU’s decision.

“The principal shareholder and the management team of Delta Bank JSC have opted for a high-risk strategy of rapid growth through the acquisition of poor-quality assets,” the statement said.

Ukraine's monetary authorities have appeared desperate and nervous in their attempts to try to save the country's ailing economy.

This news item is another Russia Today offering.  It appeared on their website at 6:20 p.m. Moscow time last night---and I thank reader 'h c' for finding it for us.

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Exxon Russia Exposure Surges as Long View Outweighs Politics

Exxon Mobil Corp. shook off the chill of sanctions and continued to snap up drilling rights in Russia last year, giving it more exploration holdings in Vladimir Putin’s backyard than in the U.S.

Taking the long view, Exxon boosted its Russian holdings to 63.7 million acres in 2014 from 11.4 million at the end of 2013, according to data from U.S. regulatory filings. That dwarfs the 14.6 million acres of rights Exxon holds in the U.S., which until last year was its largest exploration prospect.

While U.S. and European Union sanctions against Russia forced Exxon to shut down an Arctic drilling project in October, there were no legal obstacles barring the company from staking claims to areas that could yield tens of billions of barrels in coming decades. The bet on Russia follows a string of drilling failures elsewhere and spending cuts that will likely be addressed in Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson’s investor meeting Wednesday.

This Bloomberg article, filed from Chicago, was posted on their Internet site at 5:00 p.m. Denver time on Monday afternoon---and it's the last offering of the day from Elliot Simon, for which I thank him.

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Obama Attacks China for Creating U.S.-Inspired Spying Apparatus

President Obama has harsh words for China’s proposed counter-terrorism law. This despite the fact that the new rules are modeled largely on the U.S. regulations, and more directly, on the precedent set by the NSA’s spying apparatus.

China released a few demands last week. If U.S. tech companies want to do business in China – and given the market size, yes, tech companies want to do business in China – then they’ll have to place servers in China. They’ll also have to provide encryption keys, and allow the Chinese government special surveillance access into their systems.

President Obama is, understandably, a little wary. Tech companies are weary. Giving a global superpower “backdoor” access to servers used by millions of people feels a bit like Big Brother. It’s uncomfortably dystopian.

But as the Snowden documents revealed, this is exactly the kind of unfettered access enjoyed by the United States.

Can you spell hypocrisy, boys and girls?  This article appeared on the website at 11:46 p.m. last night Moscow time---and once again I thank Roy Stephens for sending it our way.

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What the BRICS plus Germany are really up to?

Winston Churchill once said, "I feel lonely without a war." He also badly missed the loss of empire. Churchill’s successor - the "Empire of Chaos’ - now faces the same quandary. Some wars - as in Ukraine, by proxy - are not going so well.

And the loss of empire increasingly manifests itself in myriad moves by selected players aiming towards a multi-polar world.

So no wonder U.S. "Think Tank land" is going bonkers, releasing wacky CIA-tinted "forecasts" where Russia is bound to disintegrate, and China is turning into a communist dictatorship. So much (imperial) wishful thinking, so little time to prolong hegemony.

This must read commentary by Pepe showed up on the Russia Today website last Friday---and it's the final offering of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Chile volcano sends spectacular pillar of fire into night sky

A spectacular Mordor-style eruption has hit the Villarrica volcano in southern Chile, spewing ash and lava up to 3 kilometers into the night sky and forcing the evacuation of nearby towns and villages.

Some 3,385 people have been moved from communities surrounding the volcano, according to the mayor of Pucon, a nearby town. Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said there were no reports of any injuries.

But although the fireworks display from the volcano was breathtaking, a major lava flow isn’t expected. Intermittent gas and steam continue to be erupted, although the situation remains volatile.

"After an eruptive pulse, which was pretty intense but very short at 3 am (0600 GMT), the volcanic system remains unstable and it is possible that something similar could occur again in the next few hours," the head of national geological service Sernageomin said on Tuesday morning.

This very interesting Russia Today article was posted on their Internet site at 7:28 p.m. Moscow time on their Tuesday evening---and it's courtesy of reader M.A.

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$3 Billion In Junior Companies Working Capital To Vanish – John Kaiser

While there is still hope within the junior resource sector, John Kaiser, founder of Kaiser Research, isn’t painting a pretty picture for some companies.

Speaking at a keynote program at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada’s 83rd convention in Toronto, Canada, Kaiser outlined how badly the junior resource sector is hurting.

He said, “717 companies have negative working capital, 291 have between $0 and $500,000, 554 still have between $500,000 and $20 million – those are the ones that are most likely to survive.”

“How bad is this situation? The companies that have negative working capital are trading below 30 cents, totaling almost $3 billion to service providers, to the executives’ salaries – this money will never be paid back in cash,” he said. “It will be settled for paper, which will then be rolled back and then it is just going to vanish. This is a huge hit to the system right now,” he added.

One wonders what commodity prices would be if JPMorgan et al weren't sitting on all four precious metals?  But Kaiser, the sensitive and caring man that I know him to be, will never go there.  This news item appeared on the Internet site at 11:22 a.m. EST on Monday---and it's courtesy of Richard O'Mara.  There was another spin on this Kaiser commentary.  It was posted on Internet site on Monday as well---and it's headlined "Mining sector “in worst bear market in decades”"---and I thank Brad Robertson for sending it our way.

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Koos Jansen: Where did the gold in Fort Knox come from?

The impression that most of the gold in the U.S. gold reserve stored at Fort Knox originated with coin melt following the U.S. government's confiscating of privately held monetary gold in 1933 is wrong, gold researcher and GATA consultant Koos Jansen writes.

His commentary is headlined "Where Did the Gold In Fort Knox Come From? Part I" and it was posted on the Internet site yesterday.  I found this in a GATA dispatch yesterday.

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Back in 2012 Brodsky and Quaintance suspected worldwide gold redistribution

Recent assertions by fund manager and geopolitical analyst James G. Rickards that the United States and China are cooperating in suppressing the gold price so that China more easily may obtain enough metal to hedge its grotesque foreign exchange surplus in dollars are not necessarily the first ones along those lines.

As Rickards has held U.S. Defense Department security clearance and was the lawyer for Long-Term Capital Management during the rescue arranged by the Federal Reserve in 1998, he is always worth the closest attention and surely knows more than he can tell without breaching some confidence or even risking assassination.

But the first suggestion that central banks were working surreptitiously to redistribute the world's gold among governments as the transition to some sort of worldwide currency revaluation may have been made by our friends the economists and fund managers Paul Brodsky and Lee Quaintance, then of QB Asset Management, now of Kopernik Global Investors, whose dissertation on the issue was published in May 2012 and publicized by GATA.

Brodsky and Quaintance speculated that central banks actually want the gold price up -- way up -- at least in the long term.

This 8-page commentary from three years ago, along with the balance of Chris Powell's preamble, is definitely worth reading if you have the time, especially in the light of the ever-increased gold imports into China, along with Jim Rickards' assertions.  It was posted on the Internet site yesterday.

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Perth Mint's silver sales drop to 10-month low in February

The Perth Mint's sales of silver coins slumped to a 10-month low in February, while gold product sales rose from a near-three-year low.

The Perth Mint runs the only gold refinery in Australia, the world's second-biggest gold producer after China.

The mint's gold sales rose to 31,981 ounces in February from 23,174 ounces in January, which was the lowest monthly sales figures since April 2012, data on the mint's website showed.

Sales of silver coins fell to 392,114 ounces in February, from 585,953 ounces in the previous month. Gold and silver prices declined in February after posting sharp jumps in the previous month.

This short Reuters piece, filed from Singapore at 11:44 p.m. EST yesterday evening, was something I found over on the Sharps Pixley website in the wee hours of this morning.

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Mar 03, 2015

ISM Manufacturing Tumbles To 13-Month Lows, Employment Slumps, Construction Spending Plunges

Despite a collapse in U.S. macro data in February, Markit somehow managed to conjure a better than expected 55.1 print for US Manufacturing PMI. Under the covers employment creation was the slowest since July and inflationary pressures loom as selling prices rose notably. ISM Manufacturing printed 52.9 - a small miss vs 53.0 expectations - down for the 4th month in a row to 13-month lows, with employment at its weakest since June 2013.

Construction spending's modest rebound in (seemingly un-weather-affected) December (after dropping in November) has been destroyed with a 1.1% drop in January (against expectations of 0.3% rise) for the biggest drop in 8 months.

This Zero Hedge commentary, with lots of charts, showed up on their Internet site at 10:08 a.m. EST yesterday morning---and today's first story is courtesy of reader M.A.

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U.S. Savings Rate Surges to Highest Since 2012 as Consumers Save "Gas Tax Cut" Instead of Spending

Following December's worse than expected drop in personal spending (and slowing growth in incomes), analysts were expected the usual hockey-stick bounce... it did not happen.

Despite all the exuberance over low gas prices, US personal spending dropped 0.2% in January - twice as bad as the 0.1% drop expected and the 3rd miss in a row. The spending drop was driven in large part by a slide in non-durables.

Personal income also missed expectations, rising just 0.3% (against a +0.4% expectation) hovering at its lowest growth since September. The savings rates surged to 5.5% - its highest since Dec 2012.

This is another Zero Hedge piece.  This one was posted on their website at 8:41 a.m. EST on Monday morning.

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Chicago nears fiscal free fall with latest downgrade

Chicago drew closer to a fiscal free fall on Friday with a rating downgrade from Moody's Investors Service that could trigger the immediate termination of four interest-rate swap agreements, costing the city about $58 million and raising the prospect of more broken swaps contracts.

The downgrade to Baa2, just two steps above junk, and a warning the rating could fall further still, means the third-biggest U.S. city could face even higher costs in the future if banks choose to terminate other interest-rate hedges against fluctuations in interest rates. All told, Chicago holds swaps contracts covering $2.67 billion in debt, according to a disclosure late last year.

"This is an unfortunate wake-up call for anyone still asleep over the fiscal cliff facing the city of Chicago," said Laurence Msall, president of the Chicago-based government finance watchdog, The Civic Federation.

This Reuters article, filed from Chicago, appeared on their website at 6:16 p.m. EST on Friday evening---and I thank Norman Willis for sending it along.

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John Hussman: A Who's Who of Awful Times to Invest

Unless we observe a rather swift improvement in market internals and a further, material easing in credit spreads – neither which would relieve the present overvaluation of the market, but both which would defer our immediate concerns about downside risk – the present moment likely represents the best opportunity to reduce exposure to stock market risk that investors are likely to encounter in the coming 8 years.

Last week, the cyclically-adjusted P/E of the S&P 500 Index surpassed 27, versus a historical norm of just 15 prior to the late-1990’s market bubble. The S&P 500 price/revenue ratio surpassed 1.8, versus a pre-bubble norm of just 0.8. On a wide range of historically reliable measures (having a nearly 90% correlation with actual subsequent S&P 500 total returns), we estimate current valuations to be fully 118% above levels associated with historically normal subsequent returns in stocks. Advisory bullishness (Investors Intelligence) shot to 59.5%, compared with only 14.1% bears – one of the most lopsided sentiment extremes on record.

This worthwhile read appeared on the Zero Hedge website at 4:30 p.m. EST yesterday afternoon---and it's the first offering of the day from Dan Lazicki.

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The Next Empire

Throughout history, political, financial, and military leaders have sought to create empires. Westerners often think of ancient Rome as the first empire. Later, other empires formed for a time. Spain became an empire, courtesy of its Armada, its conquest of the New World, and the gold and silver extracted from the West. Great Britain owned the 19th century but lost its empire due largely to costly wars. The U.S. took over in the 20th century and, like Rome, rose as a republic, with minimal central control, but is now crumbling under its own governmental weight.

Invariably, the last people to understand the collapse of an empire are those who live within it. As a British subject, I remember my younger years, when, even though the British Empire was well and truly over, many of my fellow Brits were still behaving in a pompous manner as though British “superiority” still existed. Not so, today. (You can only pretend for so long.)

But this does suggest that those who live within the present empire—the U.S.—will be the last to truly understand that the game is all but over. Americans seem to be hopeful that the dramatic decline is a temporary setback from which they will rebound.

Not likely. Historically, once an empire has been shot from its perch, it’s replaced by a rising power—one that’s more productive and more forward thinking in every way. Yet the U.S. is hanging on tenaciously, and like any dying empire, its leaders are becoming increasingly ruthless, both at home and abroad, hoping to keep up appearances.

This right-on-the-money commentary was a guest post by Jeff Thomas over at the Internet site yesterday---and it falls squarely into the absolute must read category.

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How Billionaires in London Use Secret Luxury Homes to Hide Assets

On London’s Billionaires Row in Hampstead, the seven-bedroom Carlton House with its 50-foot ballroom, underground swimming pool and 10-person Turkish bath is for sale for 14 million pounds ($21.5 million).

It’s being sold to repay BTA Bank after British courts seized assets from the Kazakh lender’s one-time chairman, billionaire Mukhtar Ablyazov. The lender accused him of embezzling about $6 billion from the bank, claims he says are false and politically motivated.

It took the U.K. High Court to establish that the home, with its marble bathrooms, crystal chandeliers and cherry-wood elevator, belongs to the 51-year-old, because the property was bought through a network of offshore companies that hid his identity. He argued it was his brother-in-law’s and he just rented it after his family moved to England in 2009.

This longish, but interesting Bloomberg article, showed up on their website at 3:00 a.m. Denver time yesterday---and I thank West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for sending it along.

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"Spectacular Developments" In Austria: Bail-In Arrives After €7.6 Billion Bad Bank Capital Hole "Discovered"

Slowly, all the lies of the "recovery", all the skeletons in the closet, and all the bodies swept under the rug are emerging.

Moments ago, Austrian ORF reported that there have been "spectacular developments" in the case of the Hypo Alpe Adria bad bank, also known as the Heta Asset Resolution, where an outside audit of Heta's balance sheet exposed a capital hole of up to 7.6 billion euros ($8.51 billion) which the government was not prepared to fill, the Austrian Financial Market Authority said.

As a result, according to Reuters, the bad bank that was created in the aftermath of the Hypo collapse, is itself about to be unwound, as the bad bank itself goes bad!

"Austria's Financial Market Authority stepped in on Sunday to wind down "bad bank" Heta Asset Resolution and imposed a moratorium on debt repayments by the vehicle set up last year from the remnants of defunct lender Hypo Alpe Adria."

This is another Zero Hedge offering.  This one showed up on their website at 7:59 p.m. on Sunday evening EST---and it's courtesy of David Caron.  It's definitely worth reading.  There was a follow-up ZH article on Monday headlined "Lehman Moment For Austrian "Bad Bank" Means Worse Coming"---and it's worth skimming as well.

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Spain's Catalonia prepares to set up own foreign missions, tax system amid independence drive

Catalonia is preparing its own tax system, and creating a network of foreign missions as it prepares for a snap regional vote on independence. Recently Spain’s top court ruled that the region’s symbolic referendum vote in November was unconstitutional.

Nationalist leaders in the northeastern region have urged a snap local vote on the issue of independence on September 27, AFP reported.

Catalan president Artur Mas and his government are reportedly working on tax, diplomacy, and social security restructuring in case Catalonia becomes an independent state.

This Russia Today article, courtesy of reader M.A., was posted on their Internet site at 2:41 p.m. Moscow time on their Sunday afternoon, which was 6:41 a.m. in Washington.

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Theater of the Absurd: Spain to Provide 14% of Funds For Third Greek Bailout

The ink is not even dry on the much fought extension of the Greek bailout, so hated in Greece because it perpetuates the "austerity" memorandum conditions and already Spain, which as a reminder is suddenly not on very good speaking terms with the Syriza government, is stoking the anti-austerity fire in Athens even more when moments ago Spain's Guindos revealed that not only is a third Greek bailout imminent, and will cost Europe's (and America's via the IMF) taxpayers between €30 and €50 billion, but that Spain, whose banks were completely insolvent as recently as 2 years ago and were only "saved" thanks to the ECB's direct and indirect (repo) bond monetization pathways will provide between 13% and 14% of the funding!

Yep, you couldn't make this stuff up!  This is yet another Zero Hedge article from yesterday morning EST.

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As Greek Default Fears Return, Government Considers "Borrowing" Pensions to Repay IMF

Greek short-term default risk jumped over 300bps today putting the odds of a restructuring at 50-50 within the next year as the warnings we issued last week with regard Greece's imminent default on its IMF loan loom. Seeking to reassure its lenders (and avoid yet more capital flight), Reuters reports the Greek government said it was "exploring solutions," including delaying payments to suppliers or try to raise up to 3 billion euros by borrowing from state entities such as pension funds

As Reuters reports, Athens is running out of options to fund itself despite striking a deal with the euro zone in February to extend its bailout by four months. Faced with a steep fall in revenues, it is expected to run out of cash by the end of March, possibly sooner.

This Zero Hedge article appeared on their Internet site 14:54 p.m. EST on Monday afternoon---and it's another contribution from Roy Stephens.  Roy also sent me this Ambrose Evans-Pritchard commentary on the same issue.  It's from 7:52 p.m. GMT yesterday evening---and it's headlined "Greece eyes last central bank funds to avert IMF default".

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ECB uncomfortable with leading role in Greek funding drama

European Central Bank policymakers decamp to Cyprus on Wednesday wrestling with the uncomfortable fact that they may hold the keys to Greece's continued membership of the euro.

With no political appetite for a 'transfer union' that could see wealthier countries subsidize Greece, the central bank figures prominently among the main options for staving off an impending funding crunch in Athens.

This is awkward for the ECB, an independent central bank desperate to stay out of the political debate over Greece's future but whose lender-of-last-resort function may leave it as the only institution able to stop an economic collapse there.

"The ECB is justified in being cautious because of the highly political exposure," said Richard Portes, professor of economics at London Business School, noting that the bank has just completed a sensitive, political debate over a sovereign bond-buying plan.

This Reuters piece, filed from Frankfurt, was posted on their website at 12:00 noon EST on Monday---and it's another contribution from Elliot Simon.

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Humiliated Greece eyes Byzantine pivot as crisis deepens

Greece's new currency designs are ready. The green 50 drachma note features Cornelius Castoriadis, the Marxisant philosopher and sworn enemy of privatisation.

The Nobel poet Odysseus Elytis - voice of Eastward-looking Hellenism - honours the 200 note. The bills rise to 10,000 drachma, a wise precaution lest there is a hyperinflationary shock as Greece breaks out of its debt-deflation trap at high velocity.

The amateur blueprints are a minor sensation in Greek artistic circles. They are only half in jest.

Greece's Syriza radicals have signed a fragile ceasefire with the eurozone's creditor powers. Few think this can last as escalating deadlines reach their kairotic moment in June.

This longish commentary by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard appeared on The Telegraph's website at 2:24 p.m. GMT on Saturday afternoon---and it's also courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Kerry meets with Russia’s Lavrov over Ukraine crisis

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held tense talks with his Russian counterpart in Geneva Monday to end fighting in Ukraine, where the U.N. says more than 6,000 have died in less than a year.

The meeting with Sergei Lavrov in an upscale Geneva hotel came less than a week after Kerry accused Moscow of lying to his face about its involvement in the conflict, which has triggered the worst post-Cold War crisis between the U.S. and its allies, and Russia.

Both were due to brief media on the substance of the meeting later in the day.

High-stakes talks between Kiev and Moscow were also set to get under way in Brussels to resolve a bitter gas dispute, which threatens deliveries to Europe, after Russia began direct supplies to parts of separatist-held eastern Ukraine.

This news item was posted on the Internet site yesterday sometime---and I thank Roy Stephens for sending it.

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Russian Jewish community blasts Ukraine and Baltics nations for glorifying Nazi collaborators

Russia’s largest Jewish organization has condemned the authorities of Ukraine, Baltic nations and Moldova over their official line of support to persons and groups known for close cooperation with Nazi Germany and crimes against humanity during WWII.

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FJCR) approved the resolution ‘Against reviewing the result of the Second World War’ on Friday.

In this document, the leaders of the Russian Jewry again noted that the current regime in Kiev was portraying as heroes and liberators the OUN-UPA group (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists – Ukrainian Insurgents’ Army), regardless of the fact that its members had only gained notoriety by killing thousands of civilians over their ethnic roots, mostly Jews and Poles.

FJCR delegates drew attention to the actions of the authorities of the Baltic countries who "made heroes of former SS officers."

This very disturbing article appeared on the Russia Today Internet site at 12:27 p.m. Moscow time last Friday afternoon---and it's another contribution from Roy Stephens.

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U.S. Urges E.U. to Refrain From Business With Moscow Amid Russia-Cyprus Deals

The United States is urging its European partners to refrain from doing business with Russia over its alleged role in the Ukrainian crisis, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said, commenting on the bilateral agreements between Russia and Cyprus signed last week.

“We’ve been clear that this is not the time for business as usual with Russia,” Harf said during a press briefing on Monday. “We’ve stressed with our European allies and partners the importance of unity in pressing Russia to stop fueling conflict in eastern Ukraine. That’s certainly something we feel very strongly about.”

Russia and Cyprus signed nine documents on cooperation, including military, naval and anti-terrorism agreements during the visit of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades to Moscow.

I would guess that we're going to find out pretty quick if Europe intends to completely break with Washington on the Ukraine/Russia embroglio.  If they were smart, that's what they'd do---and this would be an easy place to start.  This article, filed from Washington, appeared on the Internet site at 4:45 a.m. Moscow time on their Tuesday morning---and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens once again.

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Germany Foreign Minister Warns against Speculation on Nemtsov Murder

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier cautioned on Sunday against speculation over the killing of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

"I don’t think we should speculate on the issue," Steinmeier told German public broadcaster ARD, noting that: "Nobody knows the perpetrator yet."

"We hope for a swift and transparent investigation into the case," he said.

This TASS article, filed from Berlin, was picked up by the Internet site around 10 a.m. Moscow time this morning, which was 2 a.m. in Washington.  It's another offering from Roy Stephens.

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Nemtsov Murder Fuels Suspicion, Fails to Spur Russia Sell Off

While the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov sparked international outrage, it won’t dissuade investors after the country’s assets rose the most worldwide last month, according to Prosperity Capital Management Ltd. and Landesbank Berlin Investment GmbH.

“Political markets have short legs, so I do not change my positioning in Russian assets,” Lutz Roehmeyer, who oversees $1.1 billion of assets as a money manager at Landesbank Berlin, said by e-mail Sunday. Investors “accepted that Russian democracy is not at western standards and the security situation or judicial system is far from perfect,” he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the killing on Friday of Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko said he was a “bridge” between the two countries. Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said the president would take the investigation under his “personal control” and believed the killing to be a provocation.

This Bloomberg news item, with at 2:33 minute video clip embedded, was filed from Moscow at 7:43 a.m. MST on Sunday afternoon---and I thank Elliot Simon for his third story of the day.

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Putin Predicted Washington Would Employ Assassination Tactic Against Russia — Paul Craig Roberts

The Washington-financed Russian opposition has not, as Washington hoped it would, joined the Western anti-Putin media campaign. Possibly the Washington-financed Russian NGOs have wised up from observing events in Ukraine. In place of “more democracy,” they got a Washington stooge government squandering Ukraine’s last cent on a losing war.

The most likely explanation of Nemtsov’s murder is that the CIA decided, as Nemtsov was completely marginalized as an opposition politician with 5% as against Putin’s 85%, that Nemtsov was worth more dead than alive. But the ploy, if that is what it is, has not worked inside Russia.

Part of the circumstantial evidence that Nemtsov’s murder was a CIA tactic to destabilize Russia is the orchestrated US media. The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, NPR, and the rest of the presstitutes were ready on cue with reports insinuating that Putin was responsible.

This short, but right-on-the-money commentary appeared on Paul's website on Sunday sometime---and I thank Roy Stephens for sliding it into my in-box very late last night.  It's definitely worth reading.

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U.S. government is authorized to rig all markets in secret, GATA secretary tells KWN

Western governments are legally authorized to rig all markets in secret and as a result investigations of market rigging by the investment houses central banks use as intermediaries are not likely to produce anything, GATA secretary/treasurer Chris Powell tells King World News in an interview last Thursday.

Elaborating, Chris recalls the single hearing given to GATA consultant Reginald Howe's gold market-rigging lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston in November 2001, at which an assistant U.S. attorney asserted that the U.S. government has the power under the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 to rig the gold market through intervention by the U.S. Treasury Department's Exchange Stabilization Fund.

This brief commentary by Chris, along with the 9:48 minute KWN audio interview, are definitely worth your while.  I thank Harold Jacobsen for pointing it out.

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What Top Hedge Fund Managers Really Think About Gold: Jeff Clark -- Casey Research

In the January issue of BIG GOLD, I interviewed a plethora of experts on their views about gold for this year. The issue was so popular that we decided to republish a portion of the edition here.

Given their level of success, these fund managers are worth listening to: James Rickards, Chris Martenson, Steve Henningsen, Grant Williams, and Brent Johnson. Some questions are the same, while others were tailored to their particular expertise.

I hope you find their comments as insightful and useful as I did…

This selection of interviews appeared in yesterday's edition of the Casey Daily Dispatch---and it's worth reading.

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Chris Martenson Interviews Grant Williams

This 54:20 minute video/audio interview was posted on their Internet site on February 28---and it's definitely a must listen from beginning to end, especially the part about gold.  The discussion turns to gold at the 23:30 minute mark---and the gold commentary lasts for about 20 minutes.  I thank Roy Stephens once again for finding it for us.

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U.S. Mint American Eagle gold coin sales tumble in February

U.S. Mint American Eagle gold coin sales in February were the weakest for the second month of the year since 2007, and down 77 percent from January, according to data on Friday, as investors eyed the soaring stock markets.

The U.S. Mint sold 18,500 ounces of gold bullion coins this month, down from 31,000 ounces in February 2014 and the lowest for the second month of the year since 2007 when just 4,000 ounces were sold.

Just 81,000 ounces of gold coins were sold in January, the smallest amount for the first month of the year since 2008.

This follows weak full-year sales in 2014, which were the lowest since 2007.

No surprises here, as retail bullion sales continue to be disastrous.  Ted says that it's only JPMorgan buying silver eagles hand over fist that's keeping their sales elevated like they are.  This Reuters article, filed from New York, was posted on their website at 4:38 p.m. EST last Friday---and I thank Orlando, Florida reader Dennis Mong for sending it to me on Saturday.

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Treasure Hunt: North Carolina authorities search for $4M in missing gold

Thieves stole $4.8 million in gold bars from an armored car on Interstate-95 near Wilson Sunday in a brazen robbery that ranks as one of the richest in North Carolina history.

The armored vehicle was going from Miami to Massachusetts. But around 6:50 p.m. Sunday, Wilson County deputies responded to a report of an armed robbery on northbound I-95 near mile marker 114. 

Authorities said two armed TransValue Inc. security guards were transporting gold and silver to Attleboro, Massachusetts, which is a major hub of jewelry outlets.

When this robbery gets solved, it's a good bet that it will turn out to be an inside job.  This gold-related news item appeared on the Internet site at 9:58 a.m. EST on Monday morning---and I thank Texas reader Roger DeReu for sending it our way.  The Zero Hedge spin on this is headlined "$4 Million in Gold Bars Stolen in 11th Largest Heist in History"---and that's courtesy of reader M.A.

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Ronan Manly: Bank of England traded gold in 1980s to control price and made a profit

The Bank of England was intimately involved with the daily London gold price fixings through the 1980s, long after the demise of the London Gold Pool price-control system, gold researcher and GATA consultant Ronan Manly reports today, adding that documents suggest that the bank was trading gold for its own account in order to help control the price and even boasted of making a profit doing so.

Manly also reports that the bank today evades questions about this activity. His commentary is headlined "The Bank of England and the London Gold Fixings in the 1980s" and it was posted on the Internet site on Saturday.  I thank Ronan for passing it along---and Chris Powell for writing the above preamble.  It's on the longish side, but an absolute must read nonetheless.

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Greece revokes approval for Eldorado Gold’s Skouries project

Greece has revoked the approval required by Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold to complete construction of the Skouries project processing plant.

The company on Monday announced that its subsidiary Hellas Gold on Friday received the notice from Greece's Ministry of Productive Reconstruction, Energy and Environment, which indicated that the ministry might, however, reverse its decision once it had completed an internal review process.

The ministry did not give a time frame within which it would complete its review process.

TSX- and NYSE-listed Eldorado said it believed the ministry’s decision had no legal basis and the company would, if necessary, act to protect its legal rights.

This article, filed from Toronto, was posted on their Internet site yesterday sometime---and I thank South African reader B.V. for digging it up for us.

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Indian government moves to paperize gold and call it monetization

To curb gold imports and monetise large idle stocks of the precious metal, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today announced three schemes, including redeemable gold bonds which will carry a fixed rate of interest.

The minister proposes to introduce a gold monetisation scheme, which will replace both the present gold deposit and gold metal loan schemes.

"The new scheme will allow the depositors of gold to earn interest in their metal accounts and the jewellers to obtain loans in their metal account. Banks and other dealers would also be able to monetize this gold," Mr. Jaitley said in his budget speech.

India is one of the largest consumers of gold in the world and imports as much as 800-1,000 tonnes of gold each year.

Lots of luck with these "schemes".  The Indian government just never gives up, does it?  This article appeared on the Internet site at 4:22 p.m. IST on their Saturday afternoon---and I found it in a GATA release.  It's certainly worth skimming---and the embedded photo makes it doubly worth the trip.

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Indian Gold import duty stays at 10%; industry worried

Jewellers and the bullion trade were disappointed with the Union Budget 2015 as the expected cut in import duty on gold from 10 per cent did not happen. The high rate has been responsible for elevated levels of gold smuggling, they say.

“For the gem and jewellery industry, the only reaction is disappointment,” Vipul Shah, chairman, Gem Jewellery Export Promotion Council, said. “The budget overlooked a significant area to curb black money and a long-pending demand from the industry to reduce the gold import duty.”

However, the Union Finance Minister announced steps for monetisation of gold in the budget.

This is another gold-related story from The Hindu website.  It appeared there just after midnight Sunday morning India Standard time---and I found it on the Sharps Pixley Internet site.

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Jim Rickards: Why the U.S. is Letting China Accumulate Gold

A lot of people think about gold as a percentage of a country’s total reserves. They are surprised to learn that the United States has 70 percent of its reserves in gold. Meanwhile, China only has about 1 percent of its reserves in gold. People look at that and think that’s an imbalance. But those are not very meaningful figures in my view.

The reason is that a country’s reserves are a mixture of gold and hard currencies, and the currencies can be in bonds or other assets. The United States doesn’t need other currencies. We print dollars, so why would we hold euros and yen?

The U.S. doesn’t need them, so it makes sense that the country would have a very large percentage of its reserves in gold. China, on the other hand, has greater need for other currencies.

A better metric, in my opinion, is to look at a country’s gold holdings as a percentage of GDP. GDP is a representation of how big a country’s economy is. It’s the gross value of all the goods and services.

This must read commentary by Jim put in an appearance on the Internet site on Monday sometime---and I thank Dan Lazicki for the final story in today's column.

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